Swelling may be within the joint, the bone or the surrounding soft tissue. Joint swelling following an injury may be acute due to a haemarthrosis or appear more slowly due to an effusion.
Arthritis describes painful swollen joints. Again this may be a mono, oligo/pauci or polyarthritis. The distribution of joint involvement should be elicited including whether it is distal or proximal, symmetrical or asymmetrical. The nature of the onset, duration, timing and exacerbating factors should be noted. Any other associated features such as joint instability should be enquired about. This may be due to ligament damage.